A streaky season came to a close for the Ohio State women’s hockey team this weekend.
The Buckeyes (15-17-5, 10-16-5) fell to Minnesota Duluth (15-14-6, 13-12-6), 5-1, on the road Sunday in the decisive third game of the team’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association Tournament first-round series.
Junior forward Zoe Hickel gave the host Bulldogs their third 1-0 lead of the weekend 9:24 into Sunday’s game, but seven minutes later junior forward Kayla Sullivan tied the game for the Buckeyes.
Then, 7:06 into the second, Duluth scored what would prove to be the series-clinching goal. After OSU freshman defenseman Alexa Ranahan was called for interference, the Bulldogs capitalized on the power play with a goal from freshman defenseman Sidney Morin.
Despite 16 combined shots in the second and third period, the Buckeyes couldn’t find the tying goal, and a couple of Duluth empty net goals punctuated the clinching victory.
OSU coach Nate Handrahan said the 5-1 score line was slightly misleading, but ultimately the game came down to missed opportunities.
“I thought we played our best game of the series and really had a lot of opportunities to capitalize, but we didn’t,” Handrahan said. “That kind of allowed them to hang around, and they capitalized when we didn’t.”
On Saturday night the Buckeyes had to ride 32 saves from OSU senior goalie Lisa Steffes to come from behind twice and extend the series with a 3-2 win.
Tied 1-1 heading into the third, the two teams shared three goals in a 2:20 span. Duluth took their second lead of the night early in the period, but senior forward Ally Tarr scored her 11th of the year to tie things at two. Tarr picked up an assist on the winning goal two minutes later, as she and junior defenseman Sara Schmitt set up Sara’s twin sister, junior defender Kari Schmitt, to score the game-winning power play goal.
Game one on Friday saw both net minders stymie the opposition. Steffes and Duluth sophomore goalie Kayla Black combined for 50 saves, but it was the one shot Steffes didn’t save that mattered. Duluth’s leading goal scorer, senior forward Jamie Kenyon gave her team the lead 5:26 into the second, and things remained that way the rest of the night.
The close margins of each playoff game were representative of an OSU team that reinvented itself after the winter holidays, only losing four of its final 16 regular season games.
Over the course of the season, the Buckeyes fought through a nine-game winless streak, while also putting together separate three and four-game winning streaks.